You’ve heard the word gaslighting, but what does it really mean?
In this episode we’ll discuss:
- What is gaslighting?
- What are some examples of it in real life?
- Why do people do this?
- What does the Bible have to say about gaslighting?
- The #1 question I get from people who are dealing with a gaslighter
- How do I protect myself with someone who gaslights?
Questions for Reflection:
- Are there any relationships in your life where gaslighting is occurring?
- Who are the people you trust?
- Who are the people who help you move toward the best of who you are?
- Are there any areas in your life of dishonesty or deception?
Parable of the Prodigal Son Luke Chapter 15:11-31
Dr. Alison: Hey everyone, I'm Dr. Alison Cook, and I'm here to help you discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about helping you break free from painful patterns, mend your past, and discover your true self in God.
I'm so grateful you're here and I can't wait to get started, as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey everyone, it's Dr. Alison, and welcome back to The Best of You podcast. In this second episode, in our series, on psychology buzzwords, we're going to get right into the topic of gaslighting.
So have you ever felt trapped in a web of somebody's words? If you have, you'll know exactly what we're going to talk about. No matter what you say, this person takes your words, spins them into something entirely new, and spits them out back on you.
Okay, they use your words against you. To get you to doubt yourself or maybe even agree to do something or admit to something that doesn't feel quite right to you. You can't find your way out of this web. Because they're taking words that you've used, twisting them, and turning them against you. It's extremely disorienting and confusing, and it's extremely toxic. So this is gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation. It's a form of psychological abuse, really. It's when someone uses lies and deception in order to manipulate you, and specifically, they're trying to make you question yourself.
They're trying to manipulate you into doubting yourself, doubting your memory, doubting your own instincts, your perceptions, maybe even your belief about what you believe to be true.
They're trying to get you to doubt yourself because they want you to stay dependent on them, they want you to stay insecure. So we're going to get into why someone might do this, and how you can counter it.
But before we go there, I want to start off with where this word came from. It's a really interesting example and then I'll get into some examples of how I've seen this play out in the lives of my clients, in the lives of everyday people.
So the word comes from a Play that was written in the 1930s. And in this Play there's a husband and a wife. And the husband methodically and knowingly uses these tactics to try to drive his wife crazy. It's really an extreme form. It's the most toxic form of gaslighting, but it's a great example of what it is.
So this guy, basically, what he does, in their house, is every day he systematically starts dimming the lights, and they're called gas lights back then because they're fueled by gas. So he starts dimming the lights in the house and he also starts rummaging around in the attic making all this noise in the attic.
But when his wife comes to him each day, asking him things like, "Why are the lights getting dimmer? Why does it seem like it's getting darker in the house?" Or, "why am I hearing these noises?"
He denies it and says something to the effect of, "Well, I don't notice any difference, what's wrong with you? There's no noises, the lights aren't darker. There's something going on with you, I'm getting worried about you."
Okay, he's intentionally doing these things and when she notices the reality, there is something actually happening. He both denies that reality and then he twists it to make her question her own sanity. This is an extreme example of really abusive, gaslighting.
Again, as we discussed in episode one, On Narcissism, all of these behaviors lie on a spectrum. So this is a really extreme case where he's methodically and intentionally, over time, doing this to try to erode somebody's confidence in themselves. To erode somebody's sense of sanity. So here are some examples of how this might come out in everyday life. Because it's usually not quite that overt, it's usually a lot more subtle.
But here's an example, let's say you go to your spouse, and you say, "Hey, I just wanted to remind you that I'm not going to be home tonight. Remember, you promised that you'd be available to help put the kids to bed." And it's just a reminder.
And let's say they reply, "You never told me, you wouldn't be home tonight. You never said that." "Well, no, I'm pretty sure I did. I remember telling you and you replying that you will be home tonight, that you could help out. Don't you remember?"
"No you didn't, I don't remember that. You're making that up, what's going on with you? Why would you do this? Why would you lie about something like that?"
So in this conversation, you see the two key components of gaslighting, number one, they're lying. You did tell them. You did ask them to help out with the kids, in this instance, they agreed to it. So there's a lie at the baseline.
They're saying, "You never told me this, this isn't happening. It's not true." When in fact, it did happen, you did ask them. And then number two, even worse, the gaslighting takes it one step further, they turn it on you.
They try to make you feel like there's something wrong with you. They say things like, "You're making that up. You're crazy. You're not trusting me, you need help." So you're left feeling completely confused, bewildered, you might even doubt yourself, "Maybe I did forget to ask, maybe I'm not remembering that correctly. Oh, I'm sorry."
You might even start apologizing, when in fact, you didn't do anything wrong. And all the while they're doing this as a way to protect themselves and to keep you on the hot seat, to keep you questioning yourself. So that they stay out of the fray so that they retain their own control and their own power.
So gaslighting moves beyond just simple lies and deception, those are bad enough. It often starts with a lie, but it takes it one step further, it flips the narrative to put you on the defense. The person doing it is using this tactic to protect themselves and to control you.
They might feel shame inside. They might feel defensive, because, maybe, you're calling them out, and maybe they forgot. But instead of taking responsibility for what's actually true for their own behaviors. They flip the narrative in an attempt to make you feel crazy, like the bad guy, like you're in the wrong.
So why would somebody do this? Well, number one, they're trying to avoid their own feelings of shame, self-doubt, their own guilt. They're somebody who, again, as we discussed in episode one, they cannot tolerate these feelings within themselves.
So maybe they did remember, maybe, all of a sudden, they realize, "Oh, I know that she did ask me to do that and I forgot." They feel terrible inside, they can't tolerate that, they can't go there.
So they quickly cover that over with a lie and then flip it on you to make you feel crazy. They're getting you to question your experience to make themselves feel better. Some part of them needs to make you feel weak, crazy, doubting, yourself.
Because somehow, that's a tactic they've picked up. It's a really toxic tactic that they've picked up to make themselves feel better. To avoid their own shame, their own vulnerability, and to keep themselves feeling like they're in charge like they're in command.
They're avoiding their own feelings. They haven't done their own work. And as a result, they cannot come to you and say, "Oh, my gosh, I completely forgot. You did ask me to watch the kids tonight. I am so sorry, I made plans, I forgot, and I'm so sorry."
That's what a healthy person does in that situation. They take ownership, they take responsibility, that would be an appropriate response. But someone who gaslights doesn't do that, they can't do that. So they picked up this strategy, instead of facing their own stuff, they flip it and turn it on you.
All right, so, here are some examples of different types of gaslighting. So number one, this sort of accusatory, gaslighting. This sort of overt gaslighting that goes beyond somebody just getting defensive. They're not just defensive, they go on the offense, that's another way to put it.
So let's say you find that your favorite shirt is stained or wrinkled, and it's clear that somebody wore it right. So maybe you go to your roommate about it, and your roommate did in fact, let's say borrow it without asking you.
But instead of admitting that, they immediately go on the offense, "Why would you accuse me of that? Why would you say that? I wouldn't do that." But they did do it, so there's the lie. "I didn't do that." And then they accuse you, they go on offense, "What's wrong with you? Why would you accuse me of that?"
Another example, is maybe your spouse has started drinking again, and you're noticing the signs. You're picking up the clues, and you go to them and ask, and say, "Hey, man, are you drinking again?" And they immediately again, deny, "No, I'm not drinking, you have trust issues, you're paranoid."
So again, they're accusing you they're going on the offense to try to de-settle you, to try to get you off your game. To try to cover up their own lie.
So some of these things at a very basic level, we're all tempted to do from time to time. It's a temptation for all of us to cover up our tracks, to tell a white lie when we're caught in a moment when we're caught at our worst. It's tempting, "No, I didn't take your keys, I didn't borrow your car, I didn't use your phone." When in fact, we did do those things.
So I want to be clear, we all are tempted to do these things in a moment and you can recover from that. You can come back from that you can go to the person and say, "I'm so sorry, in that moment, I actually did borrow your shirt. I actually did lose the keys. I am sorry, in that moment, I'm sorry that A, I did it and B, I lied to you about it."
This is the kind of things we want to teach our kids. How to take responsibility, how to take ownership. It's not that you can't mess up, you have to take ownership of it,
But when you're gaslighting, you're taking it to another level. You're lying, which is bad enough, but then you're tightening it up by accusing the other person, by going on the offense, and it's really malicious. You're flipping it and some of their favorite scripts to use are things like, "You're paranoid, you're so nosy, you're jealous."
They're projecting these things onto you, when maybe, in fact, you just had a really legitimate concern. No, "You're jealous, you're insecure, you're ruining this relationship, you have trust issues. You must not feel good about yourself that you would raise this concern about me." These are all some of the go-to phrases of the gaslighter.
I just saw this recently on social media where somebody raised a really legitimate concern. And the person came back publicly and said, "You're just jealous." And I was like, "I don't actually think that person was jealous." So they're not only denying the accusation but flipping it on to that person.
All right, there's another more subtle form that comes, that's still really toxic and it's when we emotionally gaslight somebody. It's when someone tries to talk you out of the experience of your pain.
So let's say, for example, you confide in a friend, or maybe a small group that you're struggling a lot with feeling lonely. And the response that you hear in return is something like, "You're not lonely, what's wrong with you. Look at all the people you have in your life, that's just stupid. You're not lonely."
So that's a subtle form of gaslighting. I mean, A, it's just insensitive, but B, that is a form of invalidating this reality of your experience that you've just shared in vulnerability.
Now, remember, you have to take a look at the intent and the patterns of behavior over time. I mean, does this person mean well, but you just caught them in a bad moment or do they just lack basic, healthy communication skills? It's possible, okay, so you have to consider the whole picture of the person.
We all can sometimes get caught up in a bad moment where we're not our best selves, and we say something that's really insensitive, and that isn't helpful.
But again, the difference is that person can come back and say, "I am so sorry, I just completely invalidated you. I'm sorry, can we hit the reset button? Can we start over? Can you tell me about what you're trying to say? I'm listening now."
So it's not that we can't make mistakes and I want to be clear about that. But if this is somebody who's constantly kind of questioning your experience, questioning and saying, "No, you don't really feel that way. You can't feel that way. You shouldn't feel that way. You shouldn't feel angry. God doesn't want you to feel that way." That hurts and it really erodes your own sense of self, your own sense of-
Well, wait a minute, I think, I really feel this way. I know, I really think I feel lonely and now I not only feel lonely, but I'm really confused and I'm really disoriented because you're telling me I shouldn't feel that way, all right. Don't feel that way. Okay, this is not a safe person. If they're consistently doing this, this is not a safe person for you to confide in.
This can also happen in faith communities and I hate it that this is true, but I hear it all too often. Let's say you go to a pastor and you share, vulnerably, that you're feeling really uncomfortable with the way you're seeing certain things being done, and the way certain people are being treated.
And the response that you hear in return is, "You have issues, you need to repent. You are slandering this community, this is a problem within you." And you're just shocked. You're like, "Wait a minute, like, "No, I'm seeing something bad. I'm seeing stuff that's going on here that isn't good, and I need to be able to talk to you about it."
And instead, you're being told that you're bad, that you're wrong, that maybe you're even sinful, that you're sowing seeds of discord, that you're unrepentant. It's really, really toxic.
The correct response would be something like, "Wow, it's hard for me to hear that, but I want to understand. It's going to be hard for me to hear this, but I really want to hear more. I want to hear your perspective."
There's a way to respond to someone who is sharing vulnerably maybe even challenging a system vulnerably. "Tell me more." "I'd like to hear from you." "I'd like to understand." And then together, you chart a course forward.
If someone is immediately coming at you with, "No, you're wrong. You're wrong. Your experience is invalid, I don't believe you. You're ruining this community. You're being toxic." And you genuinely know you're like, "Man, I am just trying to speak up honestly about what I see here." This is a form of gaslighting, it's really toxic.
So I want to be clear, remember, people won't always have the perfect response in the moment. I mean, if you've shared a hard thing with your spouse, they might get angry and go on the offense. It happens to the best of us, they might get angry, get defensive, "Stop accusing me, stop blaming me."
The difference between having a bad moment and being a gaslighter is the ability to come back to hit the reset button. To apologize to say, "I'm sorry, I did not hear you well in that moment. What I did and what I said was wrong, can we start over? I want to listen, I want to hear, I want to have that conversation with you." Somebody who's healthy can do that, that's what you need to look for.
But someone who cannot do that, someone who consistently is flipping the script on you. Putting you on the defense, making you question yourself, making you feel crazy, making you feel confused, making you doubt yourself, big red flags, pay attention. You want to move away from those kinds of behaviors. These behaviors erode your sense of self over time.
What's the impact? So the impact of gaslighting is, you start to doubt yourself, you start to question your own experience. You might even start to question your own sanity, in these worst-case scenarios.
You start to wonder, "Can I trust myself? What is really true? I don't even know. Am I crazy? Am I seeing things completely wrong? Am I just too sensitive? Am I just too prideful or are my expectations too high?" You start to doubt yourself and this is what that person wants.
They want to keep you on your toes, they want to keep you questioning yourself. Because the more you're questioning yourself, the less you're looking at them. The less you are going to actually see what needs to be seen, about what's really going on in this situation.
They are trying to protect themselves, something is going on behind the scenes. You're not wrong and they don't want you to see it. So they're going to keep you spinning in your own mind. So that you don't actually get the strength to call out what's wrong and to move toward health.
To hold them accountable if you can, and in some cases, you can't, we'll talk about that. But at the very least to separate out from that toxicity and move yourself toward health. I've seen really capable intelligent people start to lose their bearings when they're in a situation of constant gaslighting. This happens to everybody.
It's really easy to get sucked into and it's really hard. When you've been consistently exposed to a parent, a partner, a pastor, a boss, a family member, a friend who's constantly using these tactics to get you to undermine yourself, to get you to doubt yourself.
It's really, really hard to get your bearings back. So don't shame yourself if you've been lost or stuck in this web that it gaslighter creates.
All right, so what does the Bible have to say about gaslighting? I find this really, really interesting. So I believe the Bible has a very specific word for the person who consistently engages in this strategy and that word is a fool.
So we see this word fool over and over in the Bible. So I looked it up in the dictionary to see how this word is defined in the modern sense. So there's two components one, fools are unwise. Number two fools are deceptive. Interesting, unwise and deceptive.
So let's clarify fools are not necessarily unintelligent, they're unwise, there's a big difference. Instead of relying on honesty, sincerity, and healthy vulnerability, to get what they need and want. A fool resorts to tricks, deception, and manipulation.
They're con artists, they gaslight and, man, sometimes people are really good at it. They're really smart about it, they do this really well. And it's really insidious and it's really scary when they get really good at this.
So again, fools are unwise and deceptive this is this combination. And the Bible has more warnings against foolishness than almost any other topic and I don't think we're talking about this enough.
So here's some examples, primarily from the book of Proverbs. So Proverbs 18:2 "Fools care nothing for thoughtful discourse. All they do is run off at the mouse." Proverbs 12:15, "Fools are headstrong and do what they like."
Proverbs 10:18, "Liars secretly hoard hatred, and they are fools who openly spread slander." Proverbs 18:6, "The words of a fool starts fights." And then from Isaiah 32 "Fools leave a wake of wrecked lives and lies. They turn their backs on the hungry, on the homeless, ignoring those dying of thirst and in need on the streets."
There's a self-centeredness about this gaslighting tactic, that gets back at what we discussed in episode one, on narcissism. This is somebody who is protecting this really fragile, fragile void inside.
They are lacking the ability to look inside themselves, to heal their own shame, to heal their own sense of self, and to take responsibility for their own actions. So that they can also be responsible to other people.
And, so, instead, they use these tactics of deception, and manipulation, and lies, to spin these webs to keep the focus off of their own poor behavior and their own actions.
So in my own words, here's what the Bible says about Fools. Fools don't care about thoughtful dialogue. They're not interested in a back and forth a genuine exchange of ideas or a genuine exchange of feelings.
Fools don't care about respecting you, or understanding you. Fools harbor bitterness and they're going to do anything they can to kind of keep the story, reinforcing their own bitterness. Fools are more interested in chaos than they are in clarity. They're reckless, and they don't care about those who are hurting, they don't care.
So this leads us to the number one question I get from people who are dealing with a gaslighter. They always are asking me, "How can I get them to understand me? How can I make myself heard?"
They're just or desperate, "To have my spouse hear me. To get my parent to understand me. To get the people in my church community to see what's going on, to see what I'm seeing, to see the reality of the situation?" And here's the answer to that question, they can't, they won't.
The gaslighter will not try to understand you, they will not hear you. And this is so hard for people to understand when they're caught up with someone who gaslights them. Someone who consistently behaves in this manner is not interested in understanding you. They're not interested in actually hearing you.
You think if I could just say it better, louder, more clearly, that they'll understand me, they won't. You're just giving them more ammunition for them to use against you because that's what they do.
That's how they've learned to cope. That's the tactic that they've used and it's going to take them a lot of work, and a lot of counseling, and a lot of come-to-Jesus moments to change, and you may not be able to be the one to make that happen. So you've got to protect yourself.
So what do you do? How do you respond when you're in a relationship with somebody like this? Well, the Bible also has a lot to say about how we interact with gaslighting fools.
Number one, and this is counterintuitive, but it's really important, you limit your words and your interactions. So from Proverbs 14:7, "Escape quickly from the company of fools. They're a waste of your time, a waste of your words."
Proverbs 23:9, "Do not speak to fools for they will scorn your prudent words." Proverbs 26:4, "Don't respond to the stupidity of a fool. You'll only look foolish yourself. Answer a fool in simple terms."
And this good wisdom from the book of Proverbs, that is held up in psychology today. I see this all the time in my clinical practice. When you're dealing with someone who is like this, less is more.
When it comes to communicating with someone who's consistently gaslighting you, you will not win a war of words. Remember, your words will just become more fodder for them to spit back out at you. To twist and to use against you.
So you have to limit your communication, you have to extract yourself as best you can. You have to resist attempts to explain or to get them to understand you and this is painful, but it won't work.
Your actions will speak the loudest. In fact, if you have to communicate with someone like this, if it's a parent, maybe it's a co-parenting situation, maybe it's a work colleague. I often tell people to write out scripts with bullet points and just stick to the script, and don't respond to anything they throw at you. You have to be so careful in the words that you use with someone like this.
Number two, and this is hard for folks, but you have to let this person suffer their own consequences. There are a lot of ways that this plays out. But from Proverbs, again, "Fools are undone by their mouths. Their souls are crushed by their words."
From Galatians six, "The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others, ignoring God will harvest a crop of weeds." What they'll have to show for their life is weeds.
So there's the sense that they will suffer their own consequences. It's almost like you have to get out of their way. Get out of their way, take care of yourself, we'll get into how you take care of yourself but get out of their way.
This is really hard for those of you who are high in empathy, who want to connect, who want to stay loyal. You want this person to hear you, you want some sort of connection, and, so, this is really, really hard.
But one of the most loving things you can do for someone who is headed down this road of deception and destruction is to let them suffer those consequences. Is to extract yourself, save yourself first. Put on your own life jacket first and let them suffer their own consequences.
And one of the best examples of this is from the parable of the prodigal son, from Luke chapter 15. And in this parable we see the father giving the son his inheritance, even though he sees it as a foolish request. And my guess when I read that passage is that the father probably had tried to reason with his adult son.
He probably tried to connect with him, to share his perspective. And I can almost imagine the son using gaslighting tactics against his father. I can almost imagine the son saying things like, "You don't care about me. You don't want me to live my best life. You're selfish, you don't want to share your money with me."
You can almost imagine some of the gaslighting that might have been occurring. Where the son is flipping it on his father, when the father really actually cares for him and wants what's best for him. But the son can't see it and he wants what he wants and so he starts doing this to the dad. And the father, finally, just lets him go, and says, "Okay, go, go, take the money and go."
And the father has to step back and let the son suffer the consequences. And, oh, this is so hard. Oh, this is painful, when you love or care for somebody, who's caught up in this way of behaving in the world. It's really painful to do.
But there's wisdom in letting that person go and suffering their own consequences. And I just want to add in here and I always want to remind you to seek help from a trained professional, if you're dealing with someone like this. Especially a close family member, someone you're in deep relationship with. To help you walk through that.
Number three, this is where you then turn toward healing yourself. Stay anchored in your own integrity. Proverbs 29:11 says, "A sage quietly mulls things over a fool lets it all hang out. A sage, quietly mulls things over inside their own heart."
Galatians six, "The one who plant seeds in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work, harvests a crop of real life, of abundant life."
So the wise person takes this really hard situation, and turns to growth turns toward God, and says, "Man, I don't want to get sucked into this, I got to set a boundary with this and I got to heal my own soul.
And I got to stay true to the work of God's Spirit in me. And I got to focus on the activities and the relationships that bring me life, and that bear good fruit in my life. So that I don't let this person rob me of the life that God wants for me." So stay anchored in your own integrity in your own healing work.
Number four, surround yourself with wise, honest people, so important. Proverbs 13:20 says, "Become wise by walking with the wise. If you hang out with fools, you will watch your life falls to pieces." This is healthy boundaries.
Guys, if you have to deal with a gaslighter on a day-to-day basis, you have to surround yourself with honest people who see you, who help you see reality, who help you name what's really going on. So you can stay strong and intact inside your own soul.
And then number five, remember God's justice. And again, we turn to Galatians six here, "No one makes a fool of God." Okay, "No one makes a fool of God."
So even if you have to extract yourself from this painful situation, and maybe this person goes on and they're spinning lies about you. And they're telling everybody, all these lies about you because you've extracted yourself and you've turned away from this behavior.
You have to remember no one makes a fool of God and this is painful, and it can be so hard to know that someone is lying about you, or spreading stories behind your back.
But at the end of the day, the truth will win out. You may not be able to win that momentary battle, that momentary war of words. You may not be able to clear the air in that exact moment, it may take some time.
But you can save and heal your own soul. You can go on to find healthy relationships with honest, humble, kind, good God-fearing in a healthy way, people. You get to walk away and make sure your own soul is intact. And remember, at whatever point you do that, that justice will come. It will come.
It may not be now, it may not be next year. It may take a while, but no one can make a fool of God, the truth will win out, the truth will set you free.
So take heart, take charge of what you can. Limit your words, limit your interactions, keep your own integrity intact. Surround yourself with good, wise, safe, people, and then let go of what you cannot control. Let go of what you can't control and remember that God cannot be a made fool, that justice will prevail.
It will at some point and you'll know. You'll know when you need to revisit that. But for now, turn toward the life-giving work of being true to the beautiful soul that God made in you.
The good news is this, "The enemy of our souls is the father of lies." The father of gaslighting. These Malicious lies, this is John 8:44. But we have access to the one who is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.
Armor up with the help of good friends, with God's Spirit on your side. Get a good therapist and you will be okay, you will be okay. You can find a new life apart from the gaslighter.
So finally, I want to conclude with this question. What's the antidote to gaslighting? How do I make sure I don't go down the road of becoming a gaslighter? And how do I avoid people who might gaslight me going forward?
So here's the thing we all are inclined to tell little white lies from time to time. We all want to brush things under the carpet. This is a part of our human nature and it's the part of us, we need to become really aware of and be honest about.
Because the truth is the best antidote to gaslighting is to become a truth-teller yourself. It's to work on being as honest as you can with yourself, with God, and with a few trustworthy people.
When you're honest with yourself, when you're honest with God, you build up that muscle, you build up that discernment. When you can name something in yourself, when you can say, "Man, I see that thing and it's there and it's real." You start to build up that reality muscle. And it actually helps prime you to detect deceit and manipulation and others.
So it starts from the inside out and it is such a freeing way to live. I've learned to live this way myself. I've walked my clients through this process of learning to get really honest inside your own self. Because it is the best way to really get a refined sense of what's real, what's honest, what's truthful in the world around you.
So here are some things you can do just to build up your own inner truth-teller. When you make a mistake, own it. Really work on this, this is a skill to work on it and you don't always have to go to the other person. This should be in the context of a compassionate self-awareness.
But go to yourself, go to God. Journal, "Man, I can't believe it. But I, I did this thing today and I just want to name that, and I want to be honest about that. Not with shaming myself, not with judging or condemning myself." But just getting really honest with yourself and with God.
Another thing that you can practice is just being someone who learns how to validate, and get curious about the experiences of other people. Even when you don't understand what they're going through.
When you practice this muscle in yourself of listening to someone and saying, "Well, I don't understand, I want to hear more. Help me understand your perspective. Could you tell me more about what that's like for you?"
Once, you build up that muscle inside of yourself, when you become that kind of person. You will also draw those kinds of people toward you. You will also learn to look for those qualities in other people.
So as you become, the kind of person you become is the kind of person you will more and more begin to seek out and look for in others.
The more of that goodness you taste in healthy relationships. Where you listen, and honor, and ask good questions with curiosity with compassion. The more you do that with yourself, the more you do that with the people in your life, the more you'll draw those people toward you.
I mean, sometimes, I think, can you imagine if we lived in a world where we were all just really honest. We took responsibility for ourselves. We listened well, to the person in front of us, we didn't manipulate things. We didn't try to distort the truth, we all just came together.
Can you imagine how much healing and goodness there would be. How much more we would all thrive and the truth is we don't live in a world like that. We don't live in a world where everybody operates that way, so we have to be careful.
But you can start to operate that way in your own little world, and start first within yourself and within your really key relationships with God and with the people you trust.
And then number two, develop what I call a good inner BS detector. And all that means is learn to become shrewd and learn to become discerning. And you can learn how to do that.
And a couple of ways you start to do that, one, you learn to listen to your body and the cues your body, and emotions are sending to you. You start to notice things like a pit in your stomach after a conversation you've had with somebody.
Maybe you notice a tightness in your chest or a racing heart. Maybe you leave a conversation feeling angry, or even more anxious, or confused, or shame. Learn to pay attention to this because sometimes it may be because you did something wrong.
But a lot of times, these cues are giving you warning signs, they're telling you something is off. So pay attention, learn to notice those cues, get help from a third party, learn to ask, "Wait, something happened here. I left this conversation feeling sort of funny. Something doesn't feel quite right. I'm not sure what's me and what's them."
Look for those third-party advisors that you trust. Where you can really look at the facts, look at what happened, and get clarity about those situations.
Psychologists call this reality testing, where you get really clear about the facts. And maybe you even write it down, you're like, "Here's what I saw, here's what I said, here's what I did. Here's what I know to be true."
And you name those things. And you maybe bring along another set of eyeballs to look at those with you. To really get clear about reality.
If you've been swimming in the waters of gaslighting toxicity, you're going to have to get really clear about the facts of a situation and reality test them. Anchor yourself in the truth so that you can stay strong, and you can turn away from toxicity and toward health.
So this week, as you consider this question, "What brings out the best of you?" I want you to ask yourself a couple of questions as we close. Are there any relationships in your life where this kind of gaslighting is occurring? Are you wondering about that?
Are these people really for me? Is this person really for me? Is this person really coming alongside of me and together we're trying to get toward a better, more honest, more open relationship? Is this person really helping me move toward the best of who I am? And, and I'm trying to help them move toward the best of who they are?
So take inventory. If you're noticing any signs, just notice that. And then ask yourself who are the people, I don't ever ask that question about? Who are the people I just trust? And it's so interesting to me that often those are the people we overlook.
We don't spend a lot of time thinking about them, because we just take it as baseline that they're trustworthy. Those are special relationships, so notice those. Notice where it's just like, "I just know, I can trust this person. I know they're going to always show up for me and they're never going to try to undermine me or deceive me or manipulate me."
Really pay attention and move toward these trustworthy relationships. And then begin to wonder and ask yourself and get curious about those relationships, where you're constantly kind of feeling on edge or constantly kind of feeling like you have to monitor your every word.
And then lastly, always look at your own soul looking at your own self. Are there any areas in your own life of dishonesty or deception and listen, this can be hard to face. But the more you face it in yourself the more free you become.
The more you get honest with yourself and with God the more you detect honesty in others. The more you get really, really clear about what's a truth and what's a lie.
You know that game two truths and a lie, you get really good at identifying truth, it starts inside yourself. So don't blame or shame yourself. Just start to get curious about your own soul, about your own self, about areas in your own life.
Get curious about your relationships, start to notice. And as you do remember, as you pay attention to your own soul, to your relationships, to the work of God. The work God's tapping on inside your own body, inside your own heart, inside your own mind. As you do that work, you will set yourself and others free.
Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show. You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison with one -L- cook.com.
Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now so that you don't miss an episode. And I love it, if you go ahead and leave a review. It helps so much to get the word out.
I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God you heal others, and you stay true to your God-given self.
Cat Pat says
Excellent!! I enjoyed you podcast! Thank you ~ JESUS IS LORD!!!
Alison Cook says
Thank you, and Amen.
This podcast is such a blessing!! I really need the help and teaching offered here. I pray for grace that God would provide the healthy community and companions that I/we need for healing and growth. I also pray for you Dr. Alison, that God would grant you continued courage, grace and ALL that you need to keep going as you present the content that He places in your heart. Thank you so much for these podcasts! I’m looking forward to the next one. May God continue to bless you in every way! Again, thank you!!
Alison Cook says
Thank you, Michelle—I’m so grateful that you’ve found it helpful!
Dianne Loerchner says
I’m curious how narcissism and gaslighting are related?
Alison Cook says
Hi Diane, Gaslighting is a tactic often used by those who are narcissistic. People who are narcissistic have a hard time taking responsibility for their own stuff, so they tend to blame others. Gaslighting is one of the tools they use.
Excellent teaching, Alison! You bring so much clarity to topics that can be difficult to understand. I love the way you honestly show how these things look even in well meaning relationships (like Bible study groups). Your work is a blessing! Praying for God’s hand to continue to be on you as you help His children find healing and wholeness!
Alison Cook says
Thank you so much, Kelli! I’m grateful for you.